Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Custom Classic Combos: Burning Down the House

"Watch out, you might get what you're after...close enough but not too far, maybe you know where you are. Fightin' fire with fire....It was once upon a place, sometimes I listen to myself. Gonna come in first place."~ Talking Heads "Burning Down the House"

   While on vacation in Seattle last June, we walked up the road from Pike Place Market  to the original Starbucks coffee house. It was there where we encountered a guy (I think) strumming a pink guitar while singing the Talking Heads' classic song, "Burning Down the House." As you can see, he was sporting a bad bleach job, cute little white shirt, jeans pegged right below the knees, and pink socks. Given that the guy seemed to be, shall I say (without being too offensive) flaming-the song seemed appropriate.

  Turn back the clock to June of 1993-one would find the Braves trailing the Giants by as many as nine games as the team approached the All-Star break. Still nine games out in mid-July, Atlanta acquired 1B Fred McGriff on July 18th from the Padres. Two days later, in his first game with the Braves, McGriff hit a home run, igniting the Braves offense, as they rallied from a 5-0 deficit to eventually win the game 8-5. Many, including myself, believe the home run saved the Braves season. The team would eventually go on to win 104 games, finishing one game ahead of the Giants.

  Prior to the July 20th game, an electrical problem caused a fire to break out in the press box, sending fans, players, and others running for safety. Two guys who didn't appear to be too concerned were the Braves double-play duo, Mark Lemke and Jeff Blauser.

  This photo captured the flames and smoke billowing out of the press box, and offered the perfect subject matter for a Classic Combo. I would have preferred to have this card in the landscape position, but had to settle for it in a portrait position.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Lost Archives: '71 Andruw Jones

  He may no longer be the player that he once was, but Andruw Jones is still one of my favorites. The tools he had as a youngster still leaves me thinking, "What If..."

  I recently heard one of the co-hosts on an Atlanta sports talk radio show say he thought Andruw's jersey might be the next in line to be retired, after Smoltz'. I personally don't see it, but who knows-maybe it will be.

Monday, May 28, 2012

1992 Topps Major League Debut

  For three years Topps released factory sets which featured players who had made their major league debuts the previous season. These sets were issued in 1990, 1991, and 1992, and could easily be mistaken for either regular base set cards, or from the traded sets.

  While the fronts look similar to the regular and traded sets, they do include the date the player debuted. The backs, however, have a paragraph which is written up to look like a newspaper clipping-with information about their debut. Below the paragraph there's also a line which notes which scout signed the particular player. Finally, as far as stats go- the card has each player's complete stats from the 1991 season: first in the minors, then their major league numbers.

Overall, I really like these cards and would like to see Topps bring them back. The company has revisited this idea (somewhat), by including a few players in their more recent Traded/Update sets with the dates of their 'rookie debut' on the front of their card.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Topps Archives Jumbo Packs, Retail Packs, and Blaster Breaks, Pt. 2

  As I mentioned yesterday, with the family out of town and a long weekend in front of me, I made the trek to Target and purchased some of the wildly popular Topps Archives product. Here's what I pulled out of the blaster...

Pack 1
Stephen Strasburg
Brandon Beachy!
Drew Storen
Classic Combos: Dodgers Dominance/Kemp & Robinson
Gary Carter-'77 Reprint
Mark Trumbo
Ian Kennedy
Chris Young

Pack 2
Heath Bell
Asdrubal Cabrera
B.J. Upton
Ervin Santana
Orlando Cepeda- Topps Deckle  Oh, yeah! Was just about to buy one off of eBay, now I won't need to.
Ian Kinsler
Brandon Phillips
Justin Upton- don't know if I've ever pulled a pair of brothers in the same pack.

Pack 3
Elvis Andrus
Adam Lind
Wade Boggs
Josh Hamilton- Gold Rainbow Foil
Robin Ventura- SP
Jacoby Ellsbury
Derek Holland
Gio Gonzalez

Pack 4
Matt Harrison
Ike Davis
Yogi Berra
Billy Butler
Derek Jeter- Sticker
Paul Goldschmidt
CC Sabathia
Jesus Montero

Pack 5
Justin Morneau
Jaime Garcia
Nyjer Morgan
David Ortiz
Willie Mays- Reprint
Todd Helton
Chase Utley
Yunel Escobar

Pack 6
Josh Hamilton- third Hamilton card
Cal Ripken, Jr.
Anibal Sanchez- I've got to say- as much as I hate the new Marlin uni's, they work well on the '71 
Howie Kendrick
CC Sabathia- 3D
Roy Halladay
Alex Avila
Michael Pineda

Pack 7
Brad Peacock
Drew Pomeranz
Johan Santana
R.A. Dickey
Ed Kranepool-SP
Martin Prado!
Yoenis Cespedes
Yu Darvish

Pack 8
Brandon Morrow
Matt Moore
Jordan Zimmerman
Tori Hunter
Kevin Youkilis- '77 Cloth  Just as the real Youk is reportedly on the block, so too is this Youk
Casey Kotchman
Joe Morgan
Adrian Beltre

Final Talley
101 cards towards the 200 card base set, 11 Doubles.
SPs #201-241: 5 (McBride, Van Slyke, Blue, Kranpool, Ventura)
Inserts: 2 3D cards (Mays, Sabathia), 2 Cloth Sticker cards (Hamilton, Youkilis), 1-67Stickers (Jeter), 2 Deckle Edge (Cepeda, Killebrew), 2 Classic Combos, 2 Gold Rainbow Foil, and 3 Reprints (McCovey, Mays, Carter)

  Needing another 99 cards to finish the 200 card base set has me rethinking putting the set together. I might look for a lot on eBay to try to finish it. I could see myself buying another couple of blasters and still not finishing the set, so I will wait and see on this one. 

All SPs and Inserts (except the Cepeda) are up for trade. Let me know if you're interested. There's three cards I am looking for-all are included in the SPs: Ron Gant, Terry Pendleton, and Sid Bream.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Topps Archives Jumo Packs, Retail Packs, and Blaster Breaks, PT.1

  If there's a recipe for breaking down and buying wax, then it's this: a three-day weekend with your family out of town for a week, cool, wet weather, and not having much else to do but sit around the house. That's exactly the predicament I'm in this holiday weekend, so after my morning pot of coffee I took a drive to Target- hoping to find some of the recently released Topps Archives. Booya! 

First, the retail packs:

Pack 1
Mike Moustakas
Trevor Cahill
Darryl Strawberry
Allen Craig
Harmon Killebrew Deckle Edge
Ozzie Smith
Babe Ruth
Carlos Ruiz- this card reminds me how much I hate the Phillies. It seems that every time I check the box scores, Ruiz has a multiple-hit game. And he seems to feast on Braves pitching. Case in point: May 2nd he went 3-5 w/ 2 doubles, a homer, and 7 RBI against Atlanta. Someone please get him out of the N.L. East!

Pack 2
Ty Cobb
Marco Scutaro
Roberto Clemente
Keystone Connection: Sandberg/Castro
Willie McCovey reprint
Carlos Gonzalez
Jackie Robinson
Lou Gehrig

Pack 3
Nick Swisher
Geovany Soto
Dee Gordon
Drew Storen-Gold Foil Rainbow
Vida Blue-SP One word: Awesome card!
Andrew McCutchen
George Brett-hated him as a kid, but have grown to appreciate how good he was!
Carlos Santana- would like to see some kind of dual signature card featuring him and Carlos Santana the musician.Oye Como Va!

Pack 4
Johnny Cueto
Tom Seaver-ugly background color for the card
Justin Verlander
Desmond Jennings
Josh Hamilton-cloth card
Nelson Cruz
Josh Beckett
Cliff Lee

Pack 5
John Danks
Brett Lawrie
Justin Masterson
Gary Carter
Bake McBride-SP
Phil Rizzuto
Jarrod Parker
Lonnie Chisenhall

  And of course, I wouldn't want to discriminate...

Jumbo Pack 1
Jay Bruce
Carl Crawford-where's Carl? No, he's not on the field-he's right here.
Clayton Kershaw
Alex Gordon
Gio Gonzalez
CC Sabathia
Yadier Molina
Jason Motte
Willie Mays-3D
Justin Upton
Jacoby Ellsbury
Derek Holland

Jumbo Pack 2
Brandon Belt
Dustin Ackley
Andrew Bailey
Andy Van Slyke-SP
Adrian Beltre
Mark Trumbo
Ian Kennedy
Cole Hamels
Alex Rodriguez
Josh Johnson
Michael Young
Chris Young
Ian Kinsler
Brandon Phillips

What I like about this issue:
  Player selection- Home Run.
 I really like the fact that Topps used a good selection of current players, past superstars, as well as some former semi-stars such as Van Slyke. 

   Design- Triple
Would have been a home run, except I would have preferred something other than the 1954 design-perhaps either 1974 or 1976. My favorite year included in this set is the '80, followed by '71, '84, and then the '54. 

  Inserts- Home Run
Of the many inserts available in this product, my favorites are the 1977 Cloth cards, Topps Stickers, and the In Action cards- which, unfortunately I did not pull.

Like most other collectors, I would like to have seen this product on a little bit thicker stock. However, that being said, this product pleasantly surprised me. I have read and heard many concerns others had that this release would be a disappointment, similar to last year's Lineage. I have in recent months decided against putting any more sets together, focusing instead on my Braves collection. However, after opening this product I am seriously considering putting the set together-sans the SPs. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gotta Get It! 2012 Topps Archives Chipper Jones Autograph

  The Topps twitter feed had this beauty on it the other day. If there's one card I'd like to get this year, this would be the one. And, of course, I already purchased a Chipper auto about six weeks ago-so I guess this one will be on my want list for some time.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Not Just a Minor Problem

“I don’t think it was the ballpark, the pitches were up. All of them were up.”~ Mike Minor, after serving up four more home runs Monday night. 

   I drafted Mike Minor in our fantasy baseball draft thinking that his excellent spring training would translate into a real sleeper pick. After his first three starts, I was feeling pretty confident that I was on my way to the fantasy owner/GM Hall of Fame. Minor has been absolutely horrible in his last five starts, so I guess it might be the Hall of Shame who's going to come calling. One plus: I moved Michael to the bench last night, thinking the odds were more likely that he would stink it up rather than pull out a W and get me some Ks. Brilliant move on my part.

   Mike gave up four solo home runs tonight against the Reds- three coming back-to-back-to-back with two outs in the fourth inning. Believe it or not, Minor actually saw his ERA drop tonight, from 7.09 to 6.96. In his past five starts, he is 0-3 with a 10.46 ERA. His total innings pitched during those starts is 26 2/3, and he has allowed 11 home runs in those five games (he has allowed multiple homers in four of those five starts). This is the same guy who this past offseason said basically, "play me or trade me." Granted, I don't think he quite articulated it like he wanted to, but he still came under fire from many fans.

  Fredi and Frank might not be ready to pull the trigger, but the Fightin' Pugs ain't about to throw him a bone. After tonight's spectacular outing, the kid's history.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Food Issue Friday: 1992 Donruss/Coca Cola Nolan Ryan & Brandon Beachy

   Donruss, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, produced a 26 card set in 1992 commemorating Nolan Ryan's incredible 26 year major league career. One Ryan card was included with three regular Donruss cards in specially marked Coca-Cola 12 packs. 

I'm certainly not putting Beachy in Ryan's class-I just liked the design and used it to recognize Brandon's first major league complete game, which he threw Thursday, May 17, 2012. As well as Brandon has pitched in his big league career thus far, he has had a problem getting deep into games. Hopefully last night's game will be a turning point in the career of the major's ERA leader. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Gotta Get It: Sid Bream Bobblehead

  There's no way I will be able to make it to Atlanta for the June 9th matchup between the Braves and Blue Jays, which is unfortunate because that is the day that the team is offering a Sid Bream Sliding Bobblehead. The team announced the give away a few months ago, but only today offered up a photo of the treasure. I wonder how many of the 20,000 that are to be given away will be put up on eBay? Could be a very sought-after collectible for Braves collectors. Would be a nice addition to my collection-especially right alongside the autographed photo of "The Slide" that Sid signed for me in 1993.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Nicknames: Turkey Stearnes

  I must admit- as much as I love the game of baseball, I still have so much to learn about its history. In particular, my knowledge of the history of the Negro Leagues is very limited. Sure, there are a few names I have been familiar with: Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Page, Josh Gibson, and Buck O'Neil (the subject of a recently finished book: The Soul of Baseball by Joe Posnanski)-to name a few. For the most part though, I am ignorant when it comes to many of the men who played in the league.

  One such player whom I just recently became aware of is Norman "Turkey" Stearnes, who played for a number of teams during his twenty-year career. Stearnes was a 2000 inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which makes it even more amazing that I don't recall having ever heard his name.

  In one of the best baseball books I have ever read (not to mention beautifully written!), Joe Posnanski mentions Stearnes as just one of many former Negro Leaguers whom Buck O'Neil sought to get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Yes, the nickname (you guessed it) came from the odd way in which Stearnes ran; but Buck also recalled how Turkey would talk to his bats. If a bat didn't get a hit, Stearnes would supposedly scold the piece of lumber. Judging from his career numbers, he must not had to have too many pep talks with them-he hit between .326 and .378 over his nine years in Detroit. He also hit .430 in 1929. Not only could the man hit, but he had awesome power, as well as a good glove and speed to burn. Posnanski didn't mention whether or not Stearnes would praise his bats for their many hits.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cards You're Not Likely to See- 2012 Pro Set Golf: Josh Beckett

"Yeah man, I tell you what, man, that dang ol' northeastern media guy, he had the nerve to ask me about my dang ol' feelings, man, asking me if I understood why those dang ol' fans would be upset that I was golfin'. I tell you what, I only get 18 days off a year-I deserve more gosh dang ol' time to myself than that, man. Get me some beer and chicken."

Food-Issue Friday: Jamie Moyer Original

  "I mean, dude, we don't need signs, especially for him. I mean, my goodness, every pitch is 78. Come on."~ Chipper Jones on Jamie Moyer's accusation that Jones relayed signs.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Concert and Cards

May 4, 1984. 
   I was a fourteen year-old freshman in high school, and had just a few months earlier purchased the last pack of baseball cards I would buy until re-entering the hobby during the spring of 1991. That May evening I attended my first Van Halen concert. King Edward’s playing left me in awe. The girls (trashy, but in my eyes-hot) left me with another feeling.

   Four months later, I bought my first guitar-an imitation Flying-V.  The girls wouldn’t know any different-they just dug rock stars, and I was determined to become one.  A couple of months after that, I upgraded to an imitation Les Paul. I felt like royalty. It was good to be young.

May 5, 2012. 

  I fly up to Seattle for a one-day trip to re-connect with an old friend from school whom I had not seen since 1991. Our reunion was long overdue, but once I discovered that Van Halen (my favorite band growing up-if you couldn't tell) was scheduled to play the Tacoma Dome, it offered the perfect excuse to go visit him.  A few keystrokes and I had my airline tickets. He took care of acquiring the concert tickets and provided me with a room at the inn. I was going to be fourteen or fifteen again.

  Upon arrival, I had a couple of hours to kill before he got off work- so my first stop was a Barnes and Noble. After perusing the aisles for a half-hour or so, I was off to my next stop: a local card shop.  Since I was traveling light (very light-it was a one day trip), I didn’t have my Braves want list-but that didn’t stop me from picking up quite a few cards. The vintage were all from a 99-cent box, and I figured if I already have them, someone else might enjoy them. I also found two Chipper's that I don't have. Score.

the cards in this second group are available-email me 

   Once we arrived at the Tacoma Dome, I quickly realized that I am no longer fifteen (as if my balding head hadn’t already given it away). Guys were rocking mullets. I wasn't jealous. The girls (well, women) weren’t nearly attractive anymore (although there were still some trashy ones). That’s okay-I’m happily married.  Kool and The Gang opened. Say What? Diamond Dave didn't jump much (age will do that to you), but he is still a showman. One thing is certain, though: Edward VH might be 57 years old, but the man can still do gymnastics on the fretboard.

  That evening, a thousand miles away in Denver, Colorado, two other men were doing things men their age don’t typically do. The Braves-Rockies game featured forty-nine year old Jamie Moyer and forty year old Chipper Jones. Call them grumpy old men. With the Rockies leading 6-2, Chipper doubled in a run off of Moyer in the top of the fifth. As Jones was standing on second and conversing with Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki, Moyer began accusing Chipper of relaying signs to the hitter, Braves catcher Brian McCann. Jamie’s Crying ignited a fire in Jones, who not only broke out the gloves to verbally beat Moyer after the game, but also proceeded to get two more hits and four more RBIs in his next three at-bats. Atlanta caught fire and won the game 13-9. 

  As I was waiting for my flight at the airport the next morning, I got a chance to catch up on Saturday's news. Of course, the first order of business was the summary of the previous night’s game. After reading of the crazy events, as well as reflecting on the concert, I had to say to myself, “it’s not so bad getting older.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Custom Card: 1994 Bowman Evan Gattis

  "He's an animal"~ Chipper Jones
  "...a beast. A man-child."~ David Ross

  You typically don't hear the word "Prospect" used for a 25 year-old in high-A ball. You might even be hard pressed to find many in AA, but that is exactly the position Braves minor league catcher-turned left fielder Evan Gattis has found himself in. If you haven't heard Gattis' story, then you must read David O'Brien's piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Gattis was recently promoted from High-A Lynchburg-where he hit .385 with nine home runs, 38 RBIs, a .452 OBP and a slugged at a .821 clip in 28 games. Once moved up the latter to AA Mississippi, where he has changed positions, the hit-machine has continued to mash.

   Before you dismiss the guy, thinking, "that's what 25 year-old hitters are supposed to do in A ball," consider this: prior to last season (where he raked at low-A Rome), Gattis had not played ball for four years. I won't say he's the next Josh Hamilton, but he is an intriguing prospect to watch.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Opening Day Customs

   I can't remember a crazier game than the one the Phils and Braves played Wednesday, May 2. Down 6-0 to Roy Halliday, Atlanta Chipped away at the Phillies lead by tying the score with a six-run 5th inning. The lead continued to change back and forth, with Atlanta taking a one-run lead into the ninth. Game over once Kimbrel comes in, right? Not tonight. Philadelphia scored the tying run off Kimbrel, taking the game into overtime. With the scored still tied and one on in the bottom of the 11th, Chipper blasted a ball that had plenty of distance, but was just foul. Two pitches later- walkoff! The photo on this celebration card captured the excitement of his teammates.

Then there's that kid who was last year's runner up for Rookie of the Year. Freddie Freeman is developing into a beast. Be scared NL opponents. Be very scared.